Quesillo -Oaxacan cheese worth shouting about
Quesillo is a fabulously unique tasting cheese that melts perfectly in quesadillas, tlayudas and anything else you can think of, it is similar to mozzarella and is made using the same stretching processes that are employed to make mozzarella. Quesillo in contrast is a little bit stronger in flavour, which means that in contrast to its Italian cousin, quesillo can be used to make a wholesome, fully flavoured cheese sandwich.
Quesillo is very important in Oaxacan cuisine as it not only is added to many of the state’s dishes and snacks (antojitos) but is also served by itself as botana (small plates of food like crisps/chips, peanuts etc.) to pick at when at house parties or whilst having a beer. Unless you specifically ask for things without cheese it will be almost impossible that you not try quesillo during your time in Oaxaca.
Quesillo, also known as ‘Queso Oaxaca’ is complicated to produce because of the stretching process which takes place once the cheese reaches a specific pH and the cheese takes on the consistency of chewing gum. The stretching process essentially involves throwing the quesillo into boiling water, pulling it out again, and then stretching it out into long ribbons. The quesillo is then packaged by winding the quesillo fibres together into balls, like a ball of wool, and then put into a protective plastic bag.
Etla and its surrounding areas is the area of Oaxaca generally associated with the production of quesillo in Oaxaca; how this came to be is unclear but one can only assume that it historically at least, had something to do with grazing pasture.
There are also two versions of how quesillo came to be. The inhabitants of Etla tell a story of a little girl who was making cheese (queso – the production of queso and quesillo start off the same way), but forgot to drain the whey once the cheese was ready, and in an effort to hide the fact from her parents, threw boiling water over the cheese, and hey presto quesillo was born. The other version of how quesillo came to be in Oaxaca is that the pasta filata (cheese stretching) process of Italian origin was brought to Oaxaca by Dominican monks.
Quesillo is sold by the kilo but be careful when you are buying quesillo because it is possible to make using milk powder rather than natural cow’s milk which isn’t really what you want to try while you are visiting Oaxaca. A good indication (but no guarantee) is price; as milk is more expensive than milk powder the resulting product is therefore also more expensive.
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The Things to do in Oaxaca Team ☺
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